Liverpool defeated Roma 5-2 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final match at Anfield.
It was yet another classic European night at the home of the five-time champions. Fans were up for the fight, as always, and though it took a while, the men in red eventually responded.
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring against his old club with a spectacular effort in the 36th minute, adding the second of the match just before the half-time interval – Roberto Firmino assisted both.
Sadio Mané was enduring a rather uncomfortable spell, having missed two clear scoring chances in the first half, though, the Senegalese striker wasn’t to be denied just 11 minutes into the second when he finished a low cross from Salah from close range.
The Egyptian would help make it four goals for Liverpool, providing a similar ball, this time, to Firmino, who made no mistake at the far post and the Brazilian added a fifth just 7 minutes later.
Two quick-fire goals by the visitors made it a nervy run towards the finish line for Jürgen Klopp’s men, who now head into the second leg weary of what Roma could produce with respects to the scoreline, instead of feeling as though they had one leg in the final.
Here are five talking points from an entertaining night.
Whenever the build-up to a huge Liverpool game is surrounded by unwavering excitement and a strong sense of expectation, fans and experts often look forward to those emotions displaying themselves through the players from the first blow of the whistle.
However, that wasn’t quite the case at Anfield on Tuesday night.
Liverpool started the game rather sloppy, conceding possession, giving away needless fouls and struggling to put any rhythm behind their play. Add to this the linesman requiring the game to pause due to a broken flag and it wasn’t as smooth a start to a big occasion as we’re used to seeing by the Reds.
What word of praise remains in the dictionary that we haven’t already used to describe Mohamed Salah?
The Egyptian striker was at it once more against his former club, scoring twice and assisting the same amount, figures that only accompany a superb attacking performance that saw him consistently remain a danger-man against Roma.
Those were his ninth and tenth goals in the Champions League, taking him up to 43 goals in all competitions this season – it’s no wonder he’s now being talked up for a possible Ballon d’Or win!
Either way, the Egyptian will have to maintain this hot form in the second leg of this tie if Liverpool are to guarantee themselves a place in the final of the Champions League.
Bad news for the Ox
Up until Tuesday night, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been doing very well for himself in his first season at Liverpool. The Englishman had put in strong performances in the quarter-final tie against Manchester City, scoring a belter of a goal and that perhaps caused Klopp to retain faith in him with a start against the Italian giants.
Chamberlain got up to his usual exuberant ways, producing a save out of Alisson early on but a strong tackle on Aleksandar Kolarov proved too costly, as he struggled to make it back to his feet, resulting in him being stretched off to be replaced by Georginio Wijnaldum.
The Dutchman may have put in a performance to be appreciated by the watching crowd, but manager Klopp’s report on his teammate’s condition wasn’t at all cheerful.
“Oxlade, it’s probably a really bad injury.” the German told BT Sport, according to Liverpool’s official website.
“If we can say that already before the scan, that’s never good news so that means for us it’s a massive blow, of course.”
Firmino is an unsung hero
It is often said, towards the end of each Liverpool game when things are going as the Reds planned that the one player who deserves a goal the most (when he hasn’t scored) is Roberto Firmino. Rightly so.
The Brazilian was in a typical hard-working mood on Tuesday night, doing as much work off the ball as he did on it, that you felt a goal was the most fitting individual award.
While Salah and Mané made their trademark quick-fire runs forward, it was Firmino who compliment them the most with his top class composure on the ball, vision and passing ability, which yielded two assists.
Thankfully, as he gave, he also received as Salah and Milner assisted his two goals in the match, which helped widen the gap on the scoreboard between the home side and the visitors.
It is the fact that his name isn’t being sung as loudly as Salah’s or Mané’s for these performances, that makes him the ultimate unsung hero. Criminally underrated.
Second leg worry
Liverpool’s advantage heading into next week’s semi-final second leg is clearly strong, but that Roma can still afford to say there is hope in the tie after the blistering performance Klopp’s men put in feels almost like an injustice.
Credit obviously goes the way of the Italians for pressing Liverpool high up the pitch and never losing hope in their attempts to salvage some form of hope heading into the second leg.
It is that hope that will worry Liverpool fans, who were clearly stunned by the two late goals Roma scored. It means the Italians still have a chance to progress on the condition they score three goals without reply and Klopp’s team will have to be spot on in everything to avoid that becoming a reality.